Posted: Mar 4, 2013 11:40 PM
COLUMBIA - The 15th-ranked Lady Cougar basketball team avenged last season's tournament championship loss to William WoodsUniversity with a 91-83 victory over the Owls on Monday night in the American Midwest Conference tournament championship game. Columbia, the tournament's top seed, improves to 27-6 overall on the season with the win and receives an automatic bid to next week's NAIA National Championships in Frankfort, Ky. William Woods (25-6) will await the release of the national tournament bracket in hopes of an at-large bid.
Both teams were sharp on the offensive end throughout the first 20 minutes of play as the two squads each connected on eight of 16 attempts from behind the three-point line in a half that featured nine lead changes. William Woods owned a 23-17 advantage on the boards in the half and was able to grab a 50-46 lead at the halftime break after shooting 53 percent from the field in the opening period. Columbia shot 43 percent from the floor, led by Tierney Seifert with 15 points on five-of-six shooting from three-point range.
The Owls continued their hot shooting as they opened the second half on an 11-2 run and built a 61-48 lead at the 14:46 mark. Trailing 64-52, senior Lily Abreu led a 12-2 charge by the Lady Cougars with eight points over the next two minutes to bring Columbia within two at 66-64. William Woods maintained a one possession lead over the next five minutes before Kaitlin Allphin tied the game at 73 with a jumper at the 5:09 mark. After a basket by Priscila Santos, a three-point play by junior Heather English gave the Lady Cougars a 76-75 advantage with 3:55 remaining in regulation. Julie Teeple added three free throws over the next minute to put the Cougars up 79-75. Blake French would hit a three-pointer on the Owls next possession to bring them within one, but Columbia responded with a 10-2 run over the next two and a half minutes to pull away for the victory.
Both teams finished the contest at 45 percent from the field, with William Woods hitting 11 of 29 tries from behind the three-point arc compared to 10 of 28 for the Lady Cougars. The Owls finished with a slight 42-41 advantage on the glass, but were outscored 42-24 in the paint by Columbia.
Abreu led the second half comeback for Columbia with half of her team-high 28 points coming in the final 20 minutes. English added 16 points on the night and Seifert finished with 15. Teeple rounded out the Lady Cougars in double figures with 11 points, picking up her 1,000th career point along the way.
Santos led all scorers with 29 points for William Woods and Destani Stensrud added 18.
Following the contest, members of the AMC All-Conference squads were recognized. Heather English was honored as the league's most valuable player and named to the ten-member first team for the second straight year. Senior Lily Abreu also pulled in first team accolades. Senior Julie Teeple was an honorable mention selection.
The NAIA National Tournament seeds and pairings will be announced on Wednesday, March 6th at 7:00 p.m.